General Question

prolificus's avatar

Why isn't atheism considered another form of faith?

Asked by prolificus (6285 points ) March 14th, 2011 from iPhone

If I understand the concept of atheism correctly, atheists do not believe god(s) exist(s) or in the afterlife (i.e. heaven, hell, etc.).

If absolutely no one knows with absolute certainty what’s on the other side of death, then wouldn’t atheism be considered another form of faith as it’s based on an hypothesis that can only be confirmed by seeing the other side of death?

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113 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

How about those of us atheists who don’t care either way if there are gods or an afterlife. As in, these things are completely irrelevant to how we view or operate in the world. I also like the saying ‘calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color’. I know you didn’t say it should be a religion but that’s what having faith and all that eventually gets equated with. It’s a slope I have no care to be on.

gasman's avatar

I have no supernatural beliefs. My view is that the only way to know the world is through physical observation combined with logical inference. You can call it science or logical positivism or empiricism or secular humanism or maybe just common sense.

What it does not involve is a “leap of faith” that presupposes the existence of something (such as a god or God) for which there is no evidence. This makes it qualitatively different from religious belief. For me evidence is required. For “believers” it is not.

Absence of faith is not itself a faith.

That atheism is “just another religion” is a rhetorical canard used by religious fundamentalists (and especially creationists) in an effort to “level the playing field” of discourse by dragging freethinkers down to their level of insane irrationality.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
prolificus's avatar

@Simone – I would think if someone didn’t care, one wouldn’t have a strong reaction / response. It seems to me like you do care on some level.

ragingloli's avatar

Atheism is the rejection of the claim of the existence of deities due to the utter lack of any evidence to support the existence of any deity. It is the default and neutral position in such matters.
Faith on the other hand is believing in positive claims with absolute certainty but without any evidence and despite any evidence to the contrary. Atheism just does not apply to that.

You will hardly find any atheist that claims to know or is 100% sure that there are no gods. Not even Richard Dawkins does.
The vast majority are aware that it can not be known. In contrast, you will find many religionists who claim to have absolute certainty that their particular version of a god exists.

I do not believe in dragons, unicorns, dwarves, elves, and invisible flying teapots in orbit around mars either. Does that imply that I have faith that they do not exist? No. It does not.

prolificus's avatar

@gasman – but isn’t the test of an hypothesis an act of faith? Even if scientific and logical?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Oh I do care about the place of organized religion in our lives, the consequences of people having one (so many being negative and harmful), the assumption that there is something wrong with me and my soul and my children, the need to convert me, convince me that indeed I do have faith. Of course I have pretty strong reactions to other people, they’re everywhere. Gods aren’t.

ragingloli's avatar

@prolificus
“but isn’t the test of an hypothesis an act of faith?”
No. The act of faith would be to disregard and ignore the outcome of the test if it contradicts your prior belief.

meiosis's avatar

I don’t believe that there isn’t a god. Instead I don’t believe that there is a god. Absence of belief is not faith. It’s really quite simple.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone – okay. So, to answer the original question…?

@ragingloli – that sounds like an assumption to me. Not all people with faith continue to disregard proven facts, just like not all people with proven facts continue to disregard faith.

theninth's avatar

Religion is the belief in a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

Atheism is disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.

Faith is confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

Faith in something does not make that thing a Religion.

Atheism does involve faith (as does much of life), but it does not involve Religious faith.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus Why isn’t it considered a faith? Because, to many, it has nothing to do with faith.

ragingloli's avatar

“Not all people with faith continue to disregard proven facts.”
Not in all cases, no.
A lot of christians accept evolution as the only currently viable explanation for the origin of life as we know it today. A lot of them accept that there was no global flood, that the earth is not just 6000 years old, or that it is not the centre of the universe.
But in those cases, these christians have no faith in the literal truth of the bible, while still retaining the faith of the existence of their particular version of a god.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

You’re misdefining atheism. To be a theist is to say you follow a religion and believe it. An athiest doesn’t follow or believe in a religion. What you describe would be more like adeism, not believing in a god. I’d say I’m more of an apathetic athiest in that I don’t care about or follow a religion (and separate from that I can and do speak against religion at times and in circumstances.) Belief or not belief in god, is another issue… I personally am apathetic about god/gods/aliens/higher-powers because the lack of evidence in any direction means belief in them is a faith that I don’t believe is worth my attention, either to prove or disprove. This, to me is the same as why it doesn’t matter to me if a monkey lives in my wall, as long as I don’t see, hear, or need to clean up after it, and there’s no evidence of if he’s there or not… well, why pay attention?

Fyrius's avatar

There’s a world of difference between having faith and making a reasonable assumption.

prolificus's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre – thank you! Food for thought.

@Fyrius – why do you say this?

Fyrius's avatar

@prolificus
I say it because I think it’s true and it seems relevant.
Does that miss the point of your question? If so, please rephrase.

prolificus's avatar

@Fyrius – maybe I should rephrase.. You said, “There’s a world of difference between having faith and making a reasonable assumption.”

What is the world of difference? Based on what do you make this statement? If you think it’s a true statement, what makes it true?

AdamF's avatar

Define faith.

In the meantime, see here.

http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionofatheism/a/FaithBelief.htm

In short, with respect to how the “fallacy of equivocation” is generally intended, the answer is no.

prolificus's avatar

@AdamF – is faith necessarily a religious concept? To me, faith is taking action on an unknown variable.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus What kind of actions do atheists take, though? That’s a new definition of faith, if I’ve seen one.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – IMO, atheists take actions of living their lives according to their beliefs which is not contingent upon god / supernatural / afterlife / religion. Whether of not atheists believe in any of those things, IMO, doesn’t negate faith because the unknown variable is the other side of death. It is by faith, then, IMO, the atheist lives a life free from the rule of god / religion, etc. while having the belief there will be nothing on the other side of death. No one knows what’s on the other side. So it seems the act of living, regardless of the practice of religion, is an act of faith.

Fyrius's avatar

@prolificus
Thanks for spelling it out.
I was being dense for a moment. I knew that’s what you meant. Excuse me.

Well, a reasonable assumption is reasonable, for starters; it follows from or is implied by the evidence you already have. It’s also rather detached. I know a reasonable assumption may turn out not to be true, in which case I’ll gladly let go of it and instead believe whatever it is that’s now better supported by the evidence.

By contrast, faith is persistent. Faith is what makes you give a belief the benefit of doubt, what makes you hold onto a belief in spite of things that would make you doubt them. If I have faith in a friend who has proven himself to be a very sensible person, then if they say something very stupid all of a sudden, my faith in them shuts up the thought “what the hell, has he gone mad” and offers “let’s hear him out.”
Because of this property, faith needs to be carefully established, and cannot be assigned lightly. If you have faith in an abusive jerk, for example, he might beat you up time and again and you’ll never learn that his “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again” is a load of bull.
Similarly if you have faith in an idea that can’t be proven wrong, you’ll end up excusing it all the time.

Furthermore the religious version of faith is rather arbitrary, in contrast to the prior evidence leading to the reasonable assumption. The majority of religious people believe what their parents raised them to believe, not what the evidence implies.

My belief that there are no gods in this universe is a reasonable assumption; it is not faith.
The fact that there is no sign whatsoever of the existence of any god, plus the fact that things people believe without any evidence whatsoever are practically never true, plus the fact that intelligent things are incredibly rare and difficult to construct, that’s what leads me to make this assumption. But if tomorrow there would appear evidence that there is a god – I mean, explicit evidence that unambiguously tilts the scales in favour of the god conjecture – then I would change my mind.

Fyrius's avatar

As a side note, and more food for thought: friendship is a form of faith. Notice however how that doesn’t mean it has anything else in common with religion.

JLeslie's avatar

I think atheism can be considered a belief system. Not the same as faith though I guess. Some would argue even atheists don’t have a belief system.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@prolificus You assume that we cared to ever explore faith/religion, to begin with. I wasn’t raised with the concept of god (except my grandma did talk of christianity and I really loved her and wanted to be christian for her, sigh, lol) and only met people later on who did give a hoot. So my actions were always just my actions, my life, not a decision to NOT have a god. My oldest is almost 5, he has no god(s) in his life, he knows other people believe in this abstract notion but he feels nothing whatsoever about that. So again..his actions are just his life..it’s quite arrogant to think that we do something on purpose or go out of our way to avoid this ‘default’ positionality of religiousity/faith. To me, it seems people go out of their way to indoctrinate others into religious orders using a variety of techniques that work, especially on children.

nikipedia's avatar

If I told you I didn’t believe in unicorns, would you tell me that was a form of faith?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

The debate remains two sides arguing about different things… (much like pro-lifers argue life begins at conception and pro-choicers argue that it’s a woman’s right to choose… the two sides aren’t even agreeing upon ground to fight over, so no answer will ever come.) In this case one side is saying atheists believe in not believing, and the other side is saying that atheists don’t buy into and don’t need the concept of religion. Religion does not equal belief and belief does not equal religion.

AdamF's avatar

@prolificus “So it seems the act of living, regardless of the practice of religion, is an act of faith.”

If you define merely being alive as counting as faith, then your definition answers the question for all but dead atheists.

Fyrius's avatar

Someone I’ve come to have well-deserved faith in as being significantly more sensible than I currently am has said the following on this subject.
(Terminology background: an empirical cluster here is a group of things that seem very much alike, which is his analysis of how people really define words in their heads. “Points in thingspace” are specific configurations; he’s using an analogy of a many-dimensional space where every variable is a dimension, so that a configuration with a specific value for every variable becomes a specific point in this space.)

“Is atheism a “religion”? (...) People who argue that atheism is a religion “because it states beliefs about God” are really trying to argue (I think) that the reasoning methods used in atheism are on a par with the reasoning methods used in religion, or that atheism is no safer than religion in terms of the probability of causally engendering violence, etc… What’s really at stake is an atheist’s claim of substantial difference and superiority relative to religion, which the religious person is trying to reject by denying the difference rather than the superiority(!)

But that’s not the a priori irrational part: The a priori irrational part is where, in the course of the argument, someone pulls out a dictionary and looks up the definition of “atheism” or “religion”. (And yes, it’s just as silly whether an atheist or religionist does it.) How could a dictionary possibly decide whether an empirical cluster of atheists is really substantially different from an empirical cluster of theologians? How can reality vary with the meaning of a word? The points in thingspace don’t move around when we redraw a boundary.

But people often don’t realize that their argument about where to draw a definitional boundary, is really a dispute over whether to infer a characteristic shared by most things inside an empirical cluster…”

(source)

prolificus's avatar

@Simone, Jean, and Fyrius – I’m pondering all that you wrote and will respond soon.

@AdamF – Ha! Good point! I mean being alive as in thriving, not just existing.

ETpro's avatar

I think most atheists base their opinion of theology on evidence and not faith. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Atheists base their beliefs on things we can see and measure. Not many will tell you that by an article of faith, they are absolutely certain there is no God, and no soul or afterlife. They will only state that they find the logic supporting such things very flimsy to nonexistent, and so they doubt there are such things. That is certainly the case for me.

LostInParadise's avatar

To me the essential difference between theists and atheists is the determination of where values come from. The theist points to some text as the source for moral values. The atheist says that we must determine moral values on our own.

Apart from prescriptions for moral behavior, theism consists of meaningless statements. Theists say this is the best of all possible worlds. I say, what are the standards? Since this is only known by God, there is no basis for discussion. Can God do anything? Who cares? The real question is, what does God do and why? Since there is no way of knowing, any discsussion of it is pointless. The theist says there is a heaven. I say, what difference does it make? If you are only good so that you will be rewarded, then you are not really good.

Nullo's avatar

A lot of people do consider it as such. It has its doctrines, factions, preachers, evangelists, churches, even body counts.The gods of atheism just happen to be mortal. As the video puts it, Christians worship Christ, and secular humanists worship humans.

@LostInParadise For Christianity, at least, the standards that you’re missing may be abstracted from the Mosaic Law and other instructive segments throughout the Bible.

everephebe's avatar

Why aren’t religions called atheists-for-everything-else-save-this-particular religion? Because it would be silly maybe? However true.

Atheism isn’t a faith, there is no faith required not to believe something.

Now as soon as people start saying I don’t believe in god, yes you could misconstrue a belief from that, but you’re wrong. Even if I were to say, “I believe in no god,” would that really be a belief? No. Would it require faith? Nope.

Atheism is not a hypothesis. Saying that someone else has a hypothesis that doesn’t have enough proof, or is unprovable in nature, doesn’t qualify as a position of faith. It qualifies a valid, and useful peer review.

@prolificus, I’m sorry to say your question reads (for me at least) as a non sequitur or a troll.
Here you say:
“If absolutely no one knows with absolute certainty what’s on the other side of death, then wouldn’t atheism be considered another form of faith as it’s based on an hypothesis that can only be confirmed by seeing the other side of death?”

Theism is a form of faith because it’s based on a “hypothesis” that can only be confirmed by seeing the other side of death. Not the other way around.

Disbelief ≠ Belief/Faith.

Theism is not verifiable, not factually measurable. Atheism is a position that states just that. Non belief, is non belief, and requires no faith. Atheism isn’t a claim at all, so it requires no proof.

Now what individual atheist believe on their own is vastly different. Atheism isn’t a members only club. It’s not a club. There is no belonging to a group-ness.

If “flutherism” is being on fluther, then “aflutherism” is not being on fluther. Do you understand it doesn’t then make all the non-fluther users belong together on their own site. It just means they don’t have a fluther account.

Fyrius's avatar

Here’s another side note, on why this notion is so common.

Atheists don’t like the word “faith”. It’s a word the religious people use in lieu of evidence, the blunt object they wield to stomp out our perfectly sensible arguments. We don’t want to be like them. We have a different subculture, one based on science, scepticism and reason in general. It’s a subculture that’s probably grown into what it is under the influence of religion; because the religious people got so hung up on faith, we don’t want anything to do with it. You keep your stinkin’ faith.
Some religious people know this. And they use it to rile us up. Because seriously, it’s fun.
Don’t get me wrong, they’ll be dead serious about it. They won’t be deliberately trolling the atheists for laughs. But saying this sort of thing will make them feel good, feel vindicated. What, you atheists think you’re better than us? Well, you, you’ve got faith too! Ha! Let’s see you say something smart to that, mister smarty-pants! Oh, you’re getting angry now? Well, we all know what that means.
Good feelings reinforce the behaviour. And so the “atheists have faith too” meme spreads through the religious community with a domino effect of high fives.

AdamF's avatar

Excellent discussion of faith here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6aPzvxIlLc

Fyrius's avatar

@Nullo
This video is outrageously full of shit. I’ve already debunked most of the things this guy says. Worse, he seems to be getting a real kick out of pissing off the atheists, in exactly the way I just described.
As for everything he says that I have not debunked, I will debunk that now.

“Atheism is a religion.”
“In Torcaso versus Watkins, the supreme court ruled secular humanism is a religion.”
Secular humanism is not the same thing as atheism at all.
As a side note, the point of this ruling is that secular humanism deserves the same rights as the religions do. That does not mean all the typical characteristics of a religion are also shared by secular humanism.

“Humanists worship humans.”
Humanism “worships” humanity, not individual particular humans. “Worship” here not meaning they revere humanity as something sacred, but the basis of humanism is confidence in the goodness and competence of humankind, or so I understand it.
Notice how this precludes the unquestioning loyalty behaviour that goes with worshipping individuals. Everyone is as much a part of humanity as everybody else.
And furthermore, again, not all atheists are humanists.

As for separation of church and state: The only acceptable position for the government of a multi-cultural society to take is one that holds every religion as equal. It can’t go around saying the Christians are right or the Hindus are right or the Scientologists are right, because that would be taking sides against all the non-Christian/Hindu/Scientologist citizens. It can’t go around saying all religions are wrong, either; that would be siding with the atheists. It just shouldn’t take stances on that sort of thing.
This is what it means for a government to be secular – it does not judge religions, so that all religions get the same treatment.
This is also why your favourite alternative where CHRISTIANITY DOMINATES ALL MUHAHAHA is not an acceptable option.

Seelix's avatar

I haven’t read all the replies yet, but I’ll chime in with my opinion that my atheism is a lack of belief, not a belief in and of itself.

jaytkay's avatar

Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby

Surprised nobody posted that already

Fyrius's avatar

@jaytkay
Simone posted the “bald is a hair colour” version, though.

bolwerk's avatar

Put simply, because atheism is by definition not a form of a faith. “Atheism” isn’t something. It’s lack of something, by definition. A full range of philosophical, political, economic, and ontological beliefs may incorporate an atheistic worldview. Atheism, however, is not defined by any one of those beliefs – which kind of makes the idea of atheist solidarity kind of silly.

I would separate atheists broadly into two categories: non-ideologues and ideologues. The former are agnostics, don’t care, don’t know, don’t think it matters, think God is a silly idea (kind of hard to argue with this),* etc., etc.. The hardcore ones tend to be ideologues about it. You see younger people go through a period of this when they first realize they don’t have to follow the dogmas they’ve been taught, and to an extent it’s probably a sign of a healthy anti-authoritarianism. In extreme cases, the ideologues subscribe to what amount to ersatz religions – objectivism and communism are notable examples. What’s truly remarkable is just how much these ideologies borrow from a Judeo-Christian worldview; they’re essentially overly optimistic processive religions without God at the center. Just replace “land of milk and honey” with a better ROI or a good ol’ worker soviet.

* Just because something seems silly doesn’t mean it turns out to be true!

Fyrius's avatar

@everephebe
“If “flutherism” is being on fluther, then “aflutherism” is not being on fluther. Do you understand it doesn’t then make all the non-fluther users belong together on their own site. It just means they don’t have a fluther account.”

Well said. Very well said. That sums up the situation excellently.
After some thought, I have a small amendment, though. For completeness’ sake.
It’s more like websites are religions. We’re practising Flutheranity here, and there are other people who are YouTubeists, or FaceBooklims, or Chandus. Atheists, then, are people who aren’t even on the internet in the first place.
It would take a very delusional nerd to contend that real life is just another web community, or to think all the people who are not on the internet will have the same inside jokes.

gasman's avatar

@prolificus Isn’t the test of an hypothesis an act of faith? Even if scientific and logical?

If so then you and I use the word “faith” very differently. If I hypothesize that my car won’t start because it has a dead battery, and then do the experiment by installing a new battery and seeing that it starts, is it an “act of faith” that my hypothesis passed a test? Not as I use the word faith. Does it take faith to accept that Oslo is the capital of Norway, even if I’ve never been there? How about 2+2 = 4? If all knowledge is taken as faith then it’s trivialized and pointless – perhaps the ultimate in cultural relativism.

everephebe's avatar

@Fyrius [giggling] I didn’t want to suggest that to be an atheist, you had to give up the “internets.” Flutheranity [te he he]. I’m a devout Flutherian, myself.

Summum's avatar

From statements in your question you feel that no one has seen the other side but there are many who do see the other side of death and found that we do live on after this life is over. Because it cannot be proved with any evidence other than self experience and actually being there it is not accepted by many that say there is not life after this one because there is no such evidence. A person cannot prove if there is a God and like wise one cannot prove that there is not a God. Not sure you would call what an atheist thinks as a faith at all but many have said in the absence of proof they don’t believe but if evidence comes up they then could accept it.

perspicacious's avatar

How many times must we see this question.

iamthemob's avatar

Faith is the expression of certainty that one’s beliefs are correct despite a lack of evidence as well as evidence to the contrary.

Doubt is the expression of a current ignorance or lack of possibility of knowing that reasonably leads one to understand that concepts that they agree or disagree with may not be based in reality.

Atheism, therefore, as a general concept, cannot be considered a faith as it is based in doubt – the polar opposite of faith.

There are plenty of “atheists” that have no doubt about their claims, and state absolute position about the impossibility of god. They happen to be some of the loudest people claiming to be atheists – but they are not true atheists as they are expressing faith in something.

This is where I think you and others (including myself at one point) get confused. Those people are not really atheists, regardless of their assertions.

In fact, the fact that they will defend their atheism despite this clear contradiction is further proof that they don’t really deserve the title.

Fyrius's avatar

@everephebe
One moment.

(makes screenshots of Fluther regulations)
(prints them out a hundred times)
(carefully binds the print-outs together as a book)
(whacks @everephebe over the head with it)

Fyrius's avatar

@iamthemob
“There are plenty of “atheists” that have no doubt about their claims, and state absolute position about the impossibility of god. (...) they are not true atheists as they are expressing faith in something.”
“Those people are not really atheists”
“they don’t really deserve the title.”
Please. Don’t do No True Scotsman fallacies.

Atheist is not a title you need to earn. You stop believing in gods, congratulations, you are now an atheist. You don’t have to base the conclusion on doubt, you don’t have to be a sceptic, you don’t have to understand science, you don’t even have to be mentally sane. You just have to not believe in gods. That’s all the word means.

We are not a cool club that you must be this smart to enter.

iamthemob's avatar

@Fyrius

That’s not the fallacy. The fallacy is argumentative – it uses the dismissal of a position as one that one making the argument would never take as support that the assertion being made by the other party is true.

My statement is one that atheism is considered a non-belief. It is based on doubt and evidentiary support. If that is the case, then making assertions based on a lack of evidence aren’t part of it – they’re part of something else. It’s not a statement that their assertions are incorrect because of that.

It’s an argument about the definition of atheism – the “No True Scotsman” fallacy would apply if I was saying that “no atheists believe that there is no god in any sense.” I’m not – but the belief itself is not properly part of the atheist argument or atheism. Atheists can properly believe that – and I believe they do. But when they assert it as position I don’t believe that they are asserting one that is properly an atheist one – it’s their personal one.

That did need clarification though – you’re right.

And I don’t think that atheism is something you earn. Rather, I’m talking about the public debate. As soon as one expresses their position and associates it with x or y they are not talking about their beliefs, but rather a “system” or “lack of a system.”

This is why “atheism” is not another form of faith. However, there are plenty of atheists, as I said, who claim that their personal belief that there is no god is part of what makes them an atheist. That I don’t agree with because it is internally inconsistent and adopts a measure of faith into atheism.

The thing is – one actually DOES have to work to come to the conclusion that there is no god – one has to deny a lot of information regarding what we know and don’t know. That belief is something that doesn’t simply happen.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion:

”(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”

I’ve always found this a more useful definition that what most people use. Note that it doesn’t require the belief in the existence of anything divine to classify a belief system as a religion, which makes atheism, capitalism, communism, socialism, anarchism, Americanism, UFOism, etc etc. all classified as religions.

Thammuz's avatar

Because it takes no faith to reject a claim that has no evidence to support it.

Would you say it needs faith for you not to believe my claim that I have an ethereal mute telepathic invisible manatee in my room? I think not.

Fyrius's avatar

@iamthemob
“The fallacy is argumentative – it uses the dismissal of a position as one that one making the argument would never take as support that the assertion being made by the other party is true.”
It uses the dismissal of a position as one… it uses the…
I’m sorry, my brain must be full of derp tonight. I’ve read this sentence ten times or so and I still don’t understand what it means. I think you broke my head.

The one committing the fallacy is dismissing a position as one he would never take, and that’s taken as support of their opponent’s assertion?

The way I understand it, it’s a fallacy because first you’re proudly saying “all Flutherians are clever, that’s how awesome we are”, then you’re shown a dumb Flutherian gaping at his screen while failing to understand a sentence ten times in a row, and you say “he doesn’t count.” It’s a fallacy because you’re arbitrarily disregarding a counterexample.
Maybe that’s not exactly what happened here. But you’re still excluding atheists you don’t like as atheists who don’t count. But what makes them atheists – their not believing in gods – is no less for their bad qualities.

But I suppose you think differently of what makes them atheists.
You say:

“atheism (...) is based on doubt and evidentiary support.”
Why should that be part of the definition? Why should we use a different word for god-unbelieving non-sceptics than for god-unbelieving sceptics?
It’s not the established usage of the word “atheism”.

“The thing is – one actually DOES have to work to come to the conclusion that there is no god – one has to deny a lot of information regarding what we know and don’t know. That belief is something that doesn’t simply happen.”
What about someone who’s simply never heard any of this god talk, like the daughter of a reclusive atheist philosopher far away in the mountains? Her model of the world has no gods in it, either. But she simply never came into contact with the memetic weeds that us urban atheists needed to clear away before we could see where we stand.

I’m getting a feeling that while I’m talking about words describing properties, you’re talking about words distinguishing subcultures.
At any rate, something seems to be going wrong, and it’s confusing the heck out of me.

Thammuz's avatar

I’ve read this sentence ten times or so and I still don’t understand what it means.

@Fyrius Oh, so it wasn’t a language barrier?

iamthemob's avatar

“The thing is – one actually DOES have to work to come to the conclusion that there is no god – one has to deny a lot of information regarding what we know and don’t know. That belief is something that doesn’t simply happen.”
What about someone who’s simply never heard any of this god talk, like the daughter of a reclusive atheist philosopher far away in the mountains? Her model of the world has no gods in it, either. But she simply never came into contact with the memetic weeds that us urban atheists needed to clear away before we could see where we stand.

Wouldn’t he resulting belief above be because of indoctrination more than anything else? She’s been refused information in order to make her own judgment, or at best doesn’t have all of the arguments in front of her. ;-)

In any case, my response was addressing the OP more than anything else. The problem with most people’s conception of atheism, as I see it, is that it includes or even is dominated by the assumption or understanding that those who actively assert there is no god are atheists. That ends up creating the understanding of atheism as including a belief that is based on something that is very much like faith, as we cannot make the assertion that there is no god unless we do it solely on the lack of evidence – which is more an argument from ignorance than anything else.

As an argument from ignorance, it’s an assertion that’s based on no evidence – the type of assertion that is a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is: there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to “prove” the proposition to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four; with (3) being unknown between true or false; and (4) being unknowable (among the first three).

Therefore, although it’s reasonable to believe it’s logically weak at best. Those that say atheism is a lack of belief must necessarily exclude this from atheism or admit that there are belief aspects – even faith aspects – to atheism overall or be internally inconsistent, and therefore supporting the assertion that atheism can be another form of faith.

The problem with being a part of any group, whether by choice or default, is that it’s not a point of discussion until one asserts that they are a part of it. In doing so, one must recognize similarities between them and the other members. If one conceives of atheism as without belief or faith, they are excluding those asserting there is no god at all.

It’s an identity politics thing. When we publicly acknowledge “membership,” we also must find ourselves defining how we are different or we must accept the most general definition of the group. If that includes the “faithful atheists,” then we must either state “yes…but that’s not my brand of it” or, if we don’t want to have that be part of the questions we are asked, we must deny that they are part of the group.

Fyrius's avatar

@Thammuz
It would be the first time in years that I run into it head-first like this.

@iamthemob
“Wouldn’t he resulting belief above be because of indoctrination more than anything else?”
Indoctrination?
Well, that’s another way to look at it. But I think the “information” she was denied isn’t really something she’s missing out on.
The god conjecture – being a very complex idea that’s not supported by anything – is an idea that would probably never even occur to anyone living in this age of science. And it shouldn’t. There’s nothing to narrow down the possibilities to this particular guess. It’s irrational to pay more attention to it than to the “the inside of Saturn is made of frozen coca cola” conjecture. If you’re going to take a random unsupported guess seriously, why this one, and not all the others?
People only still pay attention to the god idea because it’s part of a memeplex that’s adapted to defend itself. It’s not a sensible philosophical position. It’s just cultural baggage from a bygone age.

This is something else that distinguishes truths from mere memes, by the way. People around the world could all independently discover that pi is approximately 3.14159265. If tomorrow all records of pi would vanish and everyone who knows about pi would get their memories wiped, people would just discover it all over again the next time someone looks at a circle and divides its circumference by its diameter.
But if you disrupt the transmission of a religion for one generation, it’s gone forever.

I bet the information doesn’t even need to disappear. I bet it’s enough if it’s just not spoon-fed to children as The Truth while they’re in their gullible stage. If that’s not enough to eliminate it altogether, it should be enough to reduce it to a crackpot fringe belief.
Ah, a man can dream.

“That ends up creating the understanding of atheism as including a belief that is based on something that is very much like faith”
Isn’t the problem then that people assume the faith-like atheists are the only atheists there are? Then the answer is that there are more kinds than that. But not that the former aren’t atheists at all.

“Those that say atheism is a lack of belief must necessarily exclude this from atheism or admit that there are belief aspects – even faith aspects – to atheism overall or be internally inconsistent, and therefore supporting the assertion that atheism can be another form of faith.”
It’s finally starting to dawn on me what you mean.
But for this, there’s a recognised distinction between positive atheism and negative atheism – the former asserting there is no god, and the latter negating the notion that there is one. (I.e. “I do believe there is no god” versus “I don’t believe there is a god.”)

“It’s an identity politics thing. When we publicly acknowledge “membership,” we also must find ourselves defining how we are different or we must accept the most general definition of the group. If that includes the “faithful atheists,” then we must either state “yes…but that’s not my brand of it” or, if we don’t want to have that be part of the questions we are asked, we must deny that they are part of the group.”
I still think option 1 is the more fair one.
Heck, in practise, you’ll have to very carefully explain yourself whenever you mention you’re an atheist to a not explicitly intellectually savvy religious friend, or they’ll assume you’re one of those intolerant militant jerks with no sense of humour who eat babies that the stereotypes tell them you are.

iamthemob's avatar

Heck, in practise, you’ll have to very carefully explain yourself whenever you mention you’re an atheist to a not explicitly intellectually savvy religious friend, or they’ll assume you’re one of those intolerant militant jerks with no sense of humour who eat babies that the stereotypes tell them you are.

I agree. But that’s why I stop thinking about the hardcores as atheists. They confuse the “it’s a lack of belief” issue for me.

prolificus's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir -

“You assume that we cared to ever explore faith/religion, to begin with.”

Actually, I didn’t make such an assumption. I’m aware there exists a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.

“So my actions were always just my actions, my life, not a decision to NOT have a god.”

I hear you’re saying that you didn’t actively decide one way or another to have or not to have a god. If I hear you correctly, based on other things you’ve said, the existence of god means nothing to you. Basically, you live as if the concept of god never existed. Am I understanding you correctly?

“My oldest is almost 5, he has no god(s) in his life, he knows other people believe in this abstract notion but he feels nothing whatsoever about that. So again..his actions are just his life..”

Okay. So, he is aware of the concept of god, as in the fact that some people believe in a god(s). If I’m understanding correctly, he lives with an awareness, but not a need or desire to make a decision of whether or not he believes god exists. Is this what I’m hearing?

“it’s quite arrogant to think that we do something on purpose or go out of our way to avoid this ‘default’ positionality of religiousity/faith.”

Who is being arrogant in this statement?

“To me, it seems people go out of their way to indoctrinate others into religious orders using a variety of techniques that work, especially on children.”

(Sh)it happens. ;-)

@JeanPaulSartre – I like your analogy! I think others later in the thread have given various definitions of faith. For me, I think of faith as something to be evaluated and tested. To me, there are a lot of similarities between living the life of faith and living the life of academic pursuit. I can elaborate on this if need be. In this context, I’m using the concept of faith in academic terms, not some fuzzy wuzzy feel-good spiritual term. Personally, I’ve experienced the fuzzy wuzzies of spiritual faith. As I’ve matured, though, I’ve delved into the academic side of it. So, in posing the original question, the common ground I’m looking at is the process of testing out one’s theories (beliefs). I think everyone, regardless of their belief system, at some point must go through some sort of process of seeing for themselves if what they believe is actually true for them. To me, this is a process of faith, if faith is taking action on an unknown variable (“Does what I believe hold true in this new, unknown experience?” etc. etc.). Maybe it would help if I used the phrase “testing of theory” instead of faith?

@Fyrius -

“I know a reasonable assumption may turn out not to be true, in which case I’ll gladly let go of it and instead believe whatever it is that’s now better supported by the evidence…. By contrast, faith is persistent. Faith is what makes you give a belief the benefit of doubt, what makes you hold onto a belief in spite of things that would make you doubt them.”

I think I’m hearing you say about faith: A _______ (type of religious person) will continue believing in his/her ________ (object of faith) regardless of any new evidence that contradicts said belief system. OTOH, an atheist may willingly change his/her mind if new evidence contradicts his/her belief system. Am I hearing you correctly?

“My belief that there are no gods in this universe is a reasonable assumption; it is not faith.”

Thank you for saying this, it helps me to understand better.

Summum's avatar

Wow too many long answers I don’t think many are reading them. But people are people and it only matters how they live their lives and how they treat others.

gasman's avatar

I’ll second that.~

Thammuz's avatar

@prolificus I think I’m hearing you say about faith: A _______ (type of religious person) will continue believing in his/her ________ (object of faith) regardless of any new evidence that contradicts said belief system. OTOH, an atheist may willingly change his/her mind if new evidence contradicts his/her belief system. Am I hearing you correctly?

I won’t answer for @Fyrius, but i know him enough to guess his answer will be a yes.

It’s like Carl Sagan said: “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.”

By extension, an atheist that refuses the claims of religion on the basis of no evidence being provided, is in the same position: willing to change his or her mind if evidence is provided. Unfortunately enough so far no atheist I know has ever been in the position to walk the talk on this particular subject, to prove we’re actually open to changing our minds. That, though, is the reason why we’re still atheists.

iamthemob's avatar

I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.

What is perhaps the most frustrating thing about politics or religion – people come to them with big questions, and they provide simple answers – with certainty.

Of course, once you declare something with certainty, it’s suicide to go back on it.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@iamthemob If one lived a life spent encouraging people to concede that something they believe with certainty, regardless of the belief, is not so certain it would not be a wasted life.

Faith, according to dictionary.com, is defined as such:
1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. Belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact

The first definition is not necessarily applicable to atheism as atheism does not intrinsically require confidence as it’s the “default setting” with regards to deity related beliefs. As Fyrius eloquently described above, it’s not so much that an atheist has confidence in their beliefs as they deem it to be a rational assumption.

The second definition is not applicable as atheism is not a belief, but a lack of belief.

iamthemob's avatar

@Nially_Bob

The second definition is very much applicable to atheism, and describes those who state that there is no god as a fact. This is the problem with talking about “atheism” and “atheists” that I’m talking about. Argue about the definition of words that describe a general idea, but once you get into the manifestations held by people, it’s much more complex and diverse.

When someone says there is no god, and there can’t be such a thing as a god, that person is making a statement that fits with atheism. However, it is an assertion. Therefore, it must be supported. But evidence against religious concepts of god do not provide such support, as the assertion is not about those gods, but about a fact of NO god whatsoever. Therefore, it constitutes an opinion or conviction (belief) that is not based in proof.

And this isn’t the case where we’re talking about proving a negative – the challenge to “prove there IS no god” is one that many atheists roll their eyes at because it is, of course, an impossible challenge – one cannot provide proof of the nonexistence of something, but that is not any evidence that the thing exists. However, if we admit that, it undermines any statement that a belief that there is no god can be based on proof – because if it’s an impossibility in one sense, it still is in the other. Therefore, the belief is not based on proof – there can be no proof for this particular assertion.

As to the first definition, confidence in the fact that there isn’t a god is, I believe, more generally applicable – but, if the second definition is applicable, then a belief in something not based on proof has much the same meaning as confidence in a thing generally.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@iamthemob
You make an excellent point. There is a far more diverse collection of thoughts among atheists (and other ideologies for that matter) than most may presume. It is for this reason that I wrote that the first definition of faith is not an intrinic part of atheism. I realise now that I should have elaborated on this for which I apologise.

Some people may debate with great vigor that there is unquestionably no God which is indeed an assertion based on faith. Others however debate that believing in a God is not based on evidence and that logically (in accordance with Occam’s razor) they are led to be atheist. The key factor involved here is that some choose to be atheists while others are simply led to it. This is what we may refer to as the difference between “hard” and “soft” atheists.

“When someone says there is no god, and there can’t be such a thing as a god, that person is making a statement that fits with atheism. However, it is an assertion. Therefore, it must be supported.”
It depends upon the nature of the assertion. An assertion that there is definitely no God does need to be supported, but obviously can’t be given the resources we have readily available to us as a species. An assertion that there is no evidence of God however, though still being in line with atheism, is an assertion that requires no evidence.

Given these principles it’s logical to conclude that “hard” atheists have faith in atheism, while “soft” atheists do not.

iamthemob's avatar

@Nially_Bob – I wouldn’t say they have faith in atheism – however, I would say that hard atheism is a form of faith.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@iamthemob
Agreed. Have a good evening Mob :)

Electra's avatar

You need to understand that a negation is not an affirmation. Once you wrap your head around these two very different ideas, you will have the answer to your question.

iamthemob's avatar

Not all atheism is limited to negation. There are many that make particular affirmations which mimic other faith-based affirmations. The statement, again, that there is no god is an affirmation, not a negation.

Fyrius's avatar

@prolificus
“I think I’m hearing you say about faith: A _______ (type of religious person) will continue believing in his/her ________ (object of faith) regardless of any new evidence that contradicts said belief system.”
More or less.
Minor adjustment, for the sake of nuance: A ___ will disregard evidence up to evidential strength threshold level E proportional to the strength of their faith F. Where F approaches infinity, so does E.
For people with moderate faith, the threshold level will be attainable; evidence that’s explicit and unambiguous enough will defeat their faith and convince them, as it should. For people with truly unquestioning faith, all the evidence in the world isn’t going to leave a dent. And that’s when you get young earth creationists and flat earthers.

“OTOH, an atheist may willingly change his/her mind if new evidence contradicts his/her belief system. Am I hearing you correctly?”
Perhaps not willingly. I should hope it’s not just a deliberate decision, anyway – “today I’m going to believe in nuclear fusion!” No. New evidence should directly cause a reasonable person to change their mind. It should be involuntary and automatic.
I was also not talking about atheists in general, but just about my atheism, although I do believe most of them share my approach.

AdamF's avatar

From the beat poem “Storm”, by Tim Minchin. Seems very relevant.

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist”

“Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0W7Jbc_Vhw

meiosis's avatar

@iamthemob Can you point to some atheists who actually do state that they are 100% certain that there is no god? Outside of the sixth-form, I’ve yet to meet any such people.

iamthemob's avatar

@meiosis – Not with certainty. The problem is though that some of the loudest and most “militant” atheists speak to generally – they say “there is no god.” Or “god doesn’t exist” when referring to a specific god. Plus, there’s the general easy to draw conclusion that saying one doesn’t believe in god means they believe there is no god.

For instance, this post by Sam Harris is entitled “There Is No God (and You Know It)”. Easily sounds like an assertion of the non-existence. Dawkins comes close when he states Why There Almost Certainly Is No God. There’s an atheist site titled thereisnogod.

The thing is, someone, somewhere, most definitely does believe there is not god…and many of the most vocal don’t speak clearly about what the subtlety of their beliefs are.

AdamF's avatar

The “thereisnogod” site appears to be run by a Raelian no less…

Surely you can do better than this… :)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/11/A_gathering_of_Ra%C3%ABlians_in_South_Korea.jpg

With respect to the topic at hanrd, nice discussion here of these issues, and when it may be justifiable to rule out the existence of an entity when argued to posses certain characteristics. Which relates back to the Sam Harris link you provide, and the Qualiasoup link I provide above.
http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmyths/a/faith.htm

Also, with respect to Dawkins. He’s a miss, not an ‘almost’ hit…as is Sam Harris if I can infer anything from reading his books (though I grant you the sound bite title of the article).

Atheism: a refusal to deny the obvious….what a great T shirt slogan from Sam Harris

AdamF's avatar

Whoops…google “Raelian wiki”...for some reason cant get the link to attach

meiosis's avatar

” there’s the general easy to draw conclusion that saying one doesn’t believe in god means they believe there is no god”

It’s hardly their fault if others fail to understand the really quite simple difference between “I don’t believe in a god” and “I believe there is no god”.

“Dawkins come close…” Yes, and my mate’s wife is almost pregnant.

iamthemob's avatar

@AdamF, @meiosis:

And therein lies my problem with atheists at times. “No, you haven’t proven that there are atheists that believe there is no god.” And when people don’t know the difference between a lack of belief and a belief in the absence of, and you claim it’s “hardly their fault that’s the case” and say it’s simple, it’s that kind of dismissive attitude that makes me cringe at the idea of calling myself an atheist.

“Surely you can do better than this.” What I was trying to do was clarify to the OP how the misconceptions can form, based on people’s assumptions from certain statements, which lead to a misinformed understanding of their approach as one based in belief and faith rather than taking the position of one unconvinced. And how I’ve worked it out for myself to understand the diversity of approaches in the community. Which is why as soon as I was asked to “offer proof” of atheists who are or sound like they are asserting there is no god, I cringed. I saw the future – an assertion that I was wrong about atheists, that the ideas were simple, that other people are being irrational.

And that’s what I got. It’s great that you seem to think that it’s up to other people to get it, and that my reference to Dawkins was worthy of the flippant remark, @meiosis. And it’s great that you feel that I need to be patronized so that I can try harder and “do better”, @AdamF. But considering that when I try, there’s always someone who comes in to play the part of pointing out all the possible problems with the statements made about atheists as if the statements were so silly they shouldn’t have been uttered…well, I’m just not motivated anymore.

AdamF's avatar

Did you miss the smiley face? I wasn’t being serious.

It’s hard to take it seriously when hard core atheists turn out to be Raelians…. c’mon, that’s kind of funny…

Regardless, it wasn’t an attack.

iamthemob's avatar

@AdamF – Smiley faces hurt my feelings when I’m trying to work to clarify the position of atheists as generally one that comes from reason and evidence and not belief or faith. But, looking again, you are right. It was funny. I was being prickly.

AdamF's avatar

No worries. Easily happens. :)

LostInParadise's avatar

One problem that I have with religion is that I do not understand what it means to believe in God. What is it that God does? If we say that God created the Universe, does that mean that God initiated the Big Bang and then just stood back? Did God selectively intervene to make mid-course corrections? Does God still do that? And tell me again why it is that bad things happen to good people. It is all very confusing to me. I am an atheist in large part because I just do not understand the alternative. The leap of faith required is over a chasm that is just too wide.

ETpro's avatar

@AdamF Thanks for posting that ink to the terrific Tim Minchin beat poem. The neighbors might not be so pleased with you, though. I’m afraid I laughed so hard I may have irritates some. It’s not just the content and the spot-on wit, the accent makes it all the funnier.

AdamF's avatar

LOL…Stoked to hear you enjoyed it. He’s easily my favourite artist.

but what accent are you talking about? He’s speaks just like I do??? :)

ETpro's avatar

@AdamF Ha! He speaks so differently from us Americans who have slowly and steadily corrupted the king’s English.

Thammuz's avatar

@AdamF He speaks like an Australian who grew up in Australia and then moved back to England, which is kinda funny in its own right.

Electra's avatar

@iamthemob: Can you point out to me any group or even any individual who is necessarily an atheist and whose atheism is somehow faith based? Because atheism by definition is not an affirmation—an act of faith, a belief, a speech act of faith IS an affirmation. The two things are diametrically different.

iamthemob's avatar

@Electra

I’ve already explained my position, and the type of faith I am discussing. I’ve also stated how, because it seems more faith-based than atheism by definition is, I think that such people are not properly atheist in my eyes – more antitheist I would argue. And why I think that causes confusion.

Anyone who states there is no God, as a certainty, is stating a position that, although reasonable, is unprovable.

bolwerk's avatar

@Electra: Randroids? Some Marxists? Atheism is not by necessity faith-based, but it’s an (otherwise pointless) article of faith in some insipid ideologies.

@iamthemob: a lot of things are “unprovable.” I can’t prove there isn’t an invisible world of jinn either. It’s rather improbable yet possible, just like the existence of God is possible – but a pretty silly idea nonetheless.

iamthemob's avatar

@bolwerk – considering our limited understanding of physical reality, it seems relatively premature to judge the “likelihood” or “probability” of whether there is a God of some sort.

The problem with comparison to actual conceptualized things that might be unprovable and a general concept of God is that one is a clearly defined thing and the other is not.

bolwerk's avatar

@iamthemob: Well, isn’t that the point? There isn’t any quantifiable probability that there is a God. And the idea of a God is kind of silly, given that it raises more problems than it resolves. That said, it’s of course possible. But does admitting that really make anybody any less of an atheist or theist, for that matter, under some circumstances?

Fyrius's avatar

@iamthemob
“considering our limited understanding of physical reality, it seems relatively premature to judge the “likelihood” or “probability” of whether there is a God of some sort.”
I have to disagree there. The whole point of probability is to operate on insufficient data. Probability is a tool to help us map reality without knowing as much about it as we would like. If we knew enough, we wouldn’t need to deal with probabilities in the first place, we’d just know the right answer.

I won’t pretend to have any clue how to calculate the probability that there exist gods (not necessarily because it’s impossible, just because I’m a humanities-schooled numerophobe) but I can still estimate how much credence the notion seems to deserve, given what we do know.

To my present intents and purposes, it suffices not to be more numerically precise than “very, very little”.

ragingloli's avatar

@Fyrius
Just start with a 50% probability.
Then divide by the number of gods that we know of (about 3700)
Then you have the probability of any particular god.

iamthemob's avatar

@bolwerk How does the idea of God raise more problems than it resolves? How does it deal with any problems?

There’s no need to admit that there could be a God on the atheist end. However, the certain assertion that there is no God is based on no evidence. Therefore, it’s something that the person feels or chooses rather than reasons.

@Fyrius – Probability doesn’t work, however, if you really have no idea how many of the factors you know, what the scale is, etc. To claim the ability to estimate anything about an amorphous proposition on an unknown scale seems naive.

How many dimensions are we working in? What is the timespan? Are we dealing with parallel realities? etc. etc.

@ragingloli – unfortunately, that’s not at all the calculation. It seems tricky to say that it’s this or this or this god when we’re talking about a god that is undefined. There are infinite conceivable incarnations for it, essentially. Because we are not talking about a particular god, but god generally, the calculation does nothing.

bolwerk's avatar

@iamthemob: Most theological arguments I’m aware of purport there must be a God for some reason – often that existence doesn’t make sense without one. More precisely, the atheistic certainty you mention is based on the lack of evidence there is a God – which has a logic to it, albeit an inconclusive one IMHO.

iamthemob's avatar

@bolwerk – Theistic approaches represent a certainty based on faith. Atheism, I believe, should be based on a lack of certainty – leaning toward no belief per se without evidence to support it. However, to assert that there’s no God because there is no evidence of god other than second hand stories is essentially the same as asserting that there’s no Mars solely because all the evidence you have is second hand, in my eyes. Considering the general lack of evidence or even knowing how much we don’t know that we would have to research to see evidence of God, supposing we could recognize the evidence, is not the same as an argument that one doesn’t believe that there’s a god because there’s no evidence. The former is the firm assertion because there is no evidence, the latter is properly a lack of belief because nothing supports the belief.

bolwerk's avatar

@iamthemob: I don’t strongly disagree with you, except there is a problem with God: there is no theoretical, primary, secondary, a posteriori, _a priori, or other evidence for the god thing. All that is there is blind faith to defend it. That does imply a strong yet not-quantifiable likelihood that there is no God, though it doesn’t by any means imply certainty. But then, I’m not so sure very many people really go so far as to claim that does imply certainty, except maybe Ayn Rand masturbators.

Thammuz's avatar

@iamthemob How does the idea of God raise more problems than it resolves?

Talking from a strictly scientific point of view: It “solves” the whole “where did the universe come from” conundrum but it raises several other questions: What is this “god”, how can an intelligent, omnipotent being (much more complex than random assortments of particles) come into existence without cause, fully formed and able to use its powers, could it conceivably create another universe, could it create another god, what are its limits, what can it do, what are its intentions, is it good, does it know it created the universe, does he care, is it self-aware, and so forth.

I personally think that if a god exists, it is Azatoth. It doesn’t care, it doesn’t think, it just is, and it creates universes within itself because that’s just what it does. It’s a hell of a lot more likely than any god that’s actually worshipped on this pale blue irrelevant dot in the ass end of space.

iamthemob's avatar

@bolwerk – I think that it’s more reasonable to think that because all of our concepts of God come up against strong contrary evidence issues that it’s more reasonable to assume there’s no God, and therefore that it is more likely that there’s no God as opposed to one. BUT, I do think that the argument over the possibility of existence is a red herring in the way we won’t ever come to an agreement. I like the position “Fine, you’re right – there may be a God. I’ll say you’re reasonable to state that, but you must accept that I come to the opposite conclusion and that so far, that I am reasonable to assume there is none. Now, let’s move on to your concept of God, and how that concept might be damaging.”

@Thammuz – I think that when we say “God solves x issue” it’s just as problematic as saying “Science has explained x issue.” The infinite regress issue is inevitable because we always seek the cause of the cause. The only real escape is the concept that there’s a “cyclical” or “something from nothing” explanation for it all, which if the answer, is a wholly unsatisfying one, because then we just start asking “why is that?” or “is there anything outside of that?”.

And I’m of your mind about my concept of God. I don’t necessarily know if it doesn’t care or think, so much as if it does, there’s a shit-ton on it’s mind, and we’re only part of it.

Thammuz's avatar

@iamthemob The infinite regress issue is inevitable because we always seek the cause of the cause.

That’s not my point. God raises that and a fuckton of other questions simultaneously, which conflict with everything science has established so far to be true, such as the fact that, as far as we know, consciousness exists only within the constraints of matter, which would mean that either god is matter or we’re wrong, and so on making a gigantic mess.

iamthemob's avatar

as far as we know

@Thammuz – doesn’t the above raise a fuckton of questions itself? My point is that the existence or nonexistence of god doesn’t really answer any questions but the one about whether god exists. I agree that there maybe one other question that the existence of god raises that science does not: when discovering how something works, the next question for science would be “how or why is that?” whereas with god it would be “how or why is that? And how or why would god do it that way?”

ragingloli's avatar

“as far as we know, consciousness exists only within the constraints of matter, which would mean that either god is matter or we’re wrong, and so on making a gigantic mess.”

Not only that, but as far as we know, the ermergence of conciousness requires time, an environment with ressource scarcity, competition with other individuals.
tl;dr, as far as we know, consciousness arises by evolution, raising the question, are there many gods out there, competing with each other? Were there once less advanced gods? Do they die? In what realm do they live? What is the nature of the ressources they consume?

Electra's avatar

@iamthemob and @bolwerk: neither of you seems to understand what atheism is. Until we understand the terms that we are using, we will not be able to get very far in our conversation—no one will know what we’re talking about. :)

An atheist is simply that—an a-theist; someone who exists without the acknowledgment or use of any god in his / her vocabulary. To pretend that an atheist is somehow “really” a theist on some level, or there are “types of atheists that are “really” theists” is a nonsequitur.

bolwerk's avatar

@Electra: To borrow a phrase from theism, what the hell are you talking about? I never said atheists are really theists, and have vehemently disagreed with that silly notion. Read for comprehension.

Electra's avatar

@bolwerk : You are the one who really needs to read for comprehension. I did not say that YOU individually said that atheists are really theists, if you read my above post; I pointed out that both you and another poster do not seem to understand what atheism is, and addressed both problems simultaneously without regard for screen name.

bolwerk's avatar

@Electra: then why even direct that comment at me? I certainly didn’t post anything that would imply I don’t know what atheism is, and you didn’t address any “problem” with anything I actually said. If I’m not supposed to think a comment is aimed at me, don’t aim it at me.

iamthemob's avatar

@Electra

You need to read what I said about what atheism is, and about what some atheists claim about what that means.

“Atheism, therefore, as a general concept, cannot be considered a faith as it is based in doubt – the polar opposite of faith.

There are plenty of “atheists” that have no doubt about their claims, and state absolute position about the impossibility of god. They happen to be some of the loudest people claiming to be atheists – but they are not true atheists as they are expressing faith in something.

This is where I think you and others (including myself at one point) get confused. Those people are not really atheists, regardless of their assertions.”

Electra's avatar

@bolwerk : THe second half of my last post answers your question.

@iamthemob : Merely because you have no doubt about a claim, it does not follow that you are a theist or share any of the qualities of theism; quite the contrary—it follows you are an atheist if you are 100% sure that there is no proof that there is a deity of any sort. A statement of fact is not a statement of faith. I think mixing these two types of statements up is where a lot of people go amiss. If you BELIEVE in a deity of some sort, you are a theist; if you are sure that the facts show that there isn’t a deity, you are an atheist. There is absolutely no confusing these two positions because if something is a fact it can’t be a belief. A theist, by definition, believes in something. An atheist, by definition, does not.

bolwerk's avatar

@Electra: no, it doesn’t. It’s not even tangentially related to a thing I said – and it only builds on your initial refusal to connect whatever the hell you’re trying to claim about me to a thing I said.

iamthemob's avatar

@Electra

“Merely because you have no doubt about a claim, it does not follow that you are a theist or share any of the qualities of theism”

That was never my argument, however. I carefully defined faith in the following manner: “Faith is the expression of certainty that one’s beliefs are correct despite a lack of evidence.” My argument that followed that there are some who call themselves atheist who believe with certainty that there is no god. Further, there is no evidence to support a conclusion that there is no god. I then argue that there is a distinct difference between atheism, which is a lack of belief, and a certainty that there is no god because we do not know it to be true, which is a belief based on a false presumption – because the person has a lack of belief in god, it leads them to conclude the negative – that there is no god. A false presumption is the belief in the truth of an assertion merely because there is no proof of the contrary – i.e., one believes there is no god because of a lack of evidence that there is god. Therefore, it is a certainty of the correctness of the belief despite a lack of evidence for the conclusion, which is how I defined faith. Finally, as one who is certain that there is no god because a false presumption that the lack of evidence for god presumes that there is no god has faith that there is no god.

This does not mean that they are the equivalent of theists in a clear way. The faith of theists, or their certainty, is based on an argument from ignorance – a different fallacy. It is a certainty despite a lack of evidence, where the lack of evidence is used to support the certainty: “We do not know it to be true, but we don’t know it to be false, therefore I have faith that it is true.” It is faith nonetheless, as previously defined.

Finally, I argued that people who assert that there is no god in a manner that seems to imply certainty often give the impression that those making the assertion are certain that there is no god. There are plenty of times in our soundbite culture that this is how people encounter atheism and atheists – people asserting that there is no god, and then arguing from that position. This leads many to make the hasty generalization (a logical fallacy on their part) that atheism is, therefore, a certainty that there is no god. There are many atheists that seem to hold that certainty even beyond a superficial investigation or discussion of their position – I have found that many times people who become atheists because of an extremely negative interaction with religion in their past to react against a belief in god based on this negative (consider those who state their can’t be a god because of all the bad things that happen in the world).

However, those who claim that atheism is a belief that there is no god, as well as those believe with certainty that there is no god, have made a definitional fallacy in that their understanding of atheism is too broad. If we believe, and I do, that atheism is properly only a lack of belief in god, then it does not include people that have come to a conclusion about the existence of god, but only those who (1) have come to a conclusion about the existence of certain gods (e.g., if there is a god, and I haven’t been shown anything to make me believe there is, then it is certainly not the God of the Bible since many claims of the Bible have been proven to be false), and/or (2) have come to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to assume that there is no god, but know that it is an assumption that god does not exist, and therefore they may, however unlikely they consider it, be shown that god does exist.

Therefore, my answer to the OP was that it was easy to get confused about the definition of atheism because there are many of atheists who assert there is no god, a conclusion that requires faith. They may or may not actually believe that there is no god as a fact. If they do, then they are expressing a faith, like theists have faith, but different in that it is (1) faith in the opposite assertion, and (2) faith derived from a different fallacious argument. I stated to the OP that therefore, such an assertion was properly atheist, and anyone believing it may call themselves atheists, but one should not assume that, therefore, atheism includes such faith.

So, when you say, “you are an atheist if you are 100% sure that there is no proof that there is a deity of any sort.”, that is essentially what I have been arguing (I do think that it is more proper to state that on is 100% sure that we do not HAVE proof). And indeed, that is a statement of fact. But it is not that statement that is problematic. Again, I explained to the OP that the statement “There is no god” sounds like a statement of fact but should not be understood to be one from a true atheist perspective.

Unfortunately, your statement “if you are sure that the facts show that there isn’t a deity, you are an atheist” again confuses rather than clarifies the issue. No, that statement again muddles up faith into the issue. It should be “if you are show that no facts currently show that there is a deity, you are an atheist.” Stating it your way is again drawing a conclusion based on an argument from ignorance.

The only fact is that there is no proof that god exists. Therefore, using that fact to conclude anything about the certainty of the existence of god requires belief.

A theist uses the absence of evidence to conclude that there is a god – they believe in god despite the fact that there is no clear evidence of existence, or even suggestive evidence. An atheist uses the absence of evidence to conclude that the theist is wrong.

Someone who concludes that there is no god is, if we are to accept that the definition of atheism is a lack of belief, something entirely different.

AstroChuck's avatar

Atheism isn’t a faith. Atheism is a personal relationship with reality.

kritiper's avatar

Atheists don’t believe in the afterlife so there is no other side to see.

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